Ryan Lowe's Blog ryanlowe.ca

Ottawa, Canada

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October 24, 2002
Open Source and Getting Paid

The lone developer can sometimes get lost in a sea of good feelings on open source. How does one person or a small company profit from open source if going open is the only way to compete? Understandably, some people are concerned.

I think Dave is missing the point of open source, and should read The Cathedral and the Bazaar again. Open source software *is* all about street cred. That is what the GPL is for. And don't give me any of this bologna about how the GPL has never been enforced. If it had any sort of hole, some smartass would have taken advantage of it long ago. No such smartass has materialized.

When I started playing Quake, oh ... maybe seven years ago now ... I started seeing people with weird names. I wanted to make a weird name for myself, so I looked into it. There were a few applications out there that cost maybe $5 or $10 bucks each that could do it, but I did a little research instead. When I found out how easy it was to make a weird name, I made a free tool and shared the love. People got a free tool and I got an ego boost. That is what open source is about.

So maybe open source people don't have much sympathy for people who can't make money charging for software that they can just download at no cost. It definitely brings a new meaning to the phrase "free market".

If people make something that someone else is willing to give away for free, that something isn't worth anything. You can't even blame the companies if something goes wrong because of their software, so that whole "more reliable/accountable" argument goes right out the window. At least developers have their individual reputations to uphold. Develpers at large companies are relatively anonymous now, even though they used to be able to at least put their name in the credits in Help-->About.

Commercial companies will continue to make software that is REALLY complicated and is quick to market or original and is worth something for a span of time, but eventually someone will give that away for free too. I guess my advice to the capitalists is to take advantage of that window and concede gracefully when it is up.

There are many other ways to make money from open source software, just look at what IBM and RedHat are doing. Creative people will find other ways to profit, just not from straight software development of basic tools. That direction is wide open source, given enough time. Hail the free market. ;)

06:43 PM

About the credit thing...ABSOLUTELY!! I remember when Sundeep and I needed a Telnet client for VxWorks (a real-time OS by Windriver). Apparently, you only get the Telnet server and not the client with the OS. They wanted like a few thousand $$ for the client. WTF?!? So what did we do? Well, I started writing Telnet from scratch...after a day, I realized we just didn't have that much time. We just needed a bare bones client to connect to routers and switches. So we ported a Linux Telnet client in 4 hours.

We were so fucking HAPPY!! We wanted to post it to the VxWorks newsgroup. We were certain we'ld be heroes. We just wanted the credit, not any money. And boy would we have felt good. That and the fact that I'm sure there are waaay better programmers out there than us that could have taken what we did, and with the help of the open source community, made a help of a program. Unfortunately, our supervising prof said no. I didn't like that.

So yeah, giving makes you feel good. Especially knowing that someone really appreciates your work.

-::credit::- mad shouts to the "dream (4) team" ;-) hehehe see what I mean!

Posted by: roy at October 25, 2002 04:25 AM
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